Review: Rez (Dreamcast)

Early this Millennium, legendary Japanese video game designer/producer Testsuya Mizuguchi had a dream to create a game that tapped into the idea of synaesthesia – essentially a scientific term referring to the experience of differing sensations to what should be expected (e.g., “seeing” sounds – this is a VERY loose description of the phenomenon). Rez was the result.

Essentially an on-rails shooter, you control a computer avatar in cyberspace, shooting down foes to eventually take down the enemy AI. It’s a beautiful-looking game, everything is “drawn” in polygons, giving the title a very retro, kind of Tron-style feel. The interesting gameplay element that has been included here is a method by which you “tag” enemies before you take them down (so shooting is somewhat more detached or passive).

The music that accompanies the game involves some sublime electronic beats, which are supplemented by your actions within the game. Everything you do, every foe you tag, every bullet you fire and target you hit will cause the game to produce a sound – which ingeniously synchronises with the in-game music. In this way, Mizuguchi somewhat achieves his goal for synaesthesia. In fact, he also created a … ahem … vibrating peripheral to go along with the title. Essentially just a vibrating box that players could put in their pocket or… wherever… so they could feel the game as much as they heard and saw it.

OK – it only works to a degree, and it can be argued that it’s more synchronicity than synaesthesia, but still, it can be fairly mind-blowing when it all comes together…

Why did I get this anyway?Rez is just such a great title – many regard it as Mizuguchi’s best title to date (and I would agree), and it’s just one of those titles that remains in a league of its own. As one of my personal favourite Dreamcast games, I simply had to get it. Sure, it’s available in HD on Xbox Live Arcade, but you know what? I still think the Dreamcast original plays better. There’s just something about it – the controller maybe? I’m not sure, but synaesthesia through sight and sound really seems to “pop” more on DC than it does on the XBLA version.

Likely impact (on release)

Go to the Rez Wikipedia page – the reviews speak for themselves. Rez was critically acclaimed, as it should have been. Not much else needs to be said, I think.

Current impact: Has it aged well?

In many ways, yes. It still looks great, and the sound is just wonderful, but I guess it must be said that it looks better in HD on XBLA. That’s really only due to the improved resolution, though, and if you are playing this for its retro qualities, it still looks fantastic. Gameplaywise? There’s still nothing that compares. Child of Eden (somewhat of a “prequel” to Rez) is fun, but it just doesn’t hit the same perfect keys… Truly a classic in that it’s just as much fun to play today as it was on release 10 years ago.

Overall – is it worth collecting?

Most definitely. It’s a joy to play, the music is great – it’s just a classic. And sure – you can probably get this cheaper on XBLA, but again, the original just seems somehow BETTER. Get it cheaper if you must, but if you are a retro gamer with any respect for yourself and your retro collection, get the original! 😉


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